Well, I guess we really are going to have an election in 2012. And everybody from the announced to the unannounced Republican candidates to Prez O is talking now about the issue that really matters: jobs. Unfortunately, it’s still mostly talk, with no action or easy fixes for creating quality jobs for those millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed.
At least Obama admitted yesterday that his nearly trillion dollar stimulus package hasn’t quite cut it — finding that jobs aren’t quite as shovel-ready as his policy wonks thought.
Here’s from an article in Commentary, “Obama on Lack of ‘Shovel-Ready’ Jobs: Whoops, Our Bad!”
President Obama handed GOP operatives everywhere a gift at the Jobs Council meeting today. With a big grin, he noted, “Shovel-ready was not as — uh — shovel ready as we expected.” His remark prompted hearty laughter from others on the panel, including GE’s Jeffrey Immelt.
This comment won’t do much to tamp down the narrative from both liberals and conservatives that Obama isn’t serious about job creation. In addition to criticism from the NAACP and the Romney campaign, a Politico article today also has environmentalists carping Obama hasn’t done enough to produce “green jobs.”
The image of Obama snickering about shovel-ready jobs as his corporate executive advisers yuk it up next to him also hands Republicans yet another populist attack to use against the president. And that’s on the heels of a New York Times report that Obama held a DNC fundraiser at the White House to pander to Wall Street “fat cats,” as he once referred to them.
Obama made his remarks yesterday in North Carolina during a meeting of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And it’s good that leaders in government and business are focused on jobs and the economy, but it sure appears that the heavy hitter Corporate Chiefs who are on the jobs council have come up at least initially with a grab bag of really small ideas.
Here’s from the Christian Science Monitor, “Jobs council to Obama: Here’s how to create one million jobs quickly“:
With a weak job market weighing on his presidency, Barack Obama heard ideas Monday from a private-sector task force of some two-dozen business executives on how to boost employment.
Neither President Obama nor most economists see quick fixes to the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate. But the president’s official jobs council offered a list of “fast-action” proposals that the council said could create more than a million jobs without the need for major legislation from Congress.
The proposals come as the economy has slowed to a disappointing crawl, and as Washington policymakers are mired in tense and politicized negotiations over the federal budget. Some new jobs policies could potentially help both the economy and offer the president a chance to stand above partisan politics, locking arms with leaders from the business community.
Obama didn’t offer any major policy announcements after meeting Monday with his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Durham, N.C. But the council’s proposals include:
• Form business partnerships with community colleges to train more workers for today’s open jobs.
• Streamline permitting processes to speed more construction projects. Council members Jeff Immelt of General Electric and Ken Chenault of American Express said some simple steps could achieve this goal “without undercutting the protections that our regulatory system provides.”
• Make it easier for foreign tourists to obtain visas to travel to the US.
• Help small employers get more loans with help from the Small Business Administration.
• Help construction workers pick up their tools again with a campaign to upgrade commercial and government buildings for energy efficiency. Obama also touted this so-called Better Buildings Initiative Monday while visiting Cree, a maker of energy-efficient lighting in Durham, after the jobs council meeting.
Wow. And that’s the best and brightest suggestions from the leaders of American business? We’re sunk. Oops. I digress.
Well, maybe I’m being overly critical and cynical, Here’s an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who heads the jobs council, and American Express CEO Ken Chenault, “How We’re Meeting the Job Creation Challenge“:
Our objective for this first set of recommendations [see four points listed above] was to identify areas where the private sector and the administration could accelerate job creation immediately without the need for major legislation from Congress or actions that would have a long runway.
But it’s not enough.
To truly bend the curve over the longer term, we need a more strategic view. Over the next 90 days, we will turn to addressing the actions needed to make a more significant, longer-term impact. This strategic approach will emphasize a number of areas for job growth. First, we need to focus on fast-growth companies and small business. Second, we need to make America the most attractive place on Earth for high-tech services and manufacturing jobs and to accelerate foreign direct investment in the U.S. Finally, we need to address the competitiveness of America’s infrastructure. The Jobs Council will deliver recommendations on these more strategic questions in September.
By year-end we also will have looked at and made recommendations on building and improving systems for national competitiveness, including R&D investment, tax policy, visa reform and high-skilled immigration, as well as applying business concepts (like the Lean Six Sigma approach) to regulatory processes. Some of these ideas, by their nature, require bipartisan legislation and therefore may take longer to move forward, but they are all critical.
America needs more growth. The United States needs to reverse trends that developed over a long period of time, and the solutions aren’t easy politically, socially or economically. The economic decisions we make now will determine American job creation and competitiveness in the years to come. Government, business and labor need to work together to get this done.
Wonder if GE will commit to not outsourcing any more jobs or building factories in countries outside the U.S.? Oops. I digress again.
OK. We need to find a solution to growing the economy and creating jobs for American workers who need and want them. And if the business leaders on the jobs council can take a more strategic approach, then go for it.
Too bad somebody in the administration didn’t take a more strategic approach two years ago when we starting pitching billions at jobs that weren’t quite shovel-ready.